On Saturday morning of Mayberry Days 2015, my buddy Rob and I got up early to go out to breakfast. While Rob was finishing getting ready, I went downstairs to the Hampton Inn’s free breakfast to grab a cup of cranapple juice. While there, I saw a man with long gray hair flowing around the bald top of his head. He looked vaguely familiar though I did not pay close attention to him. After going back to the room, Rob and I then left but still didn’t totally beat the rush for breakfast at Snappy Lunch. After a short wait, we were seated. Breakfast was delicious and so cheap it was ridiculous so long as you are okay with eating from styrofoam plates. The restaurant is the favorite type for Rob. Any restaurant where the servers call him “Sugar” or “Hon” adds a few points in the plus column automatically.
The parade was fun with a mix of celebrities in attendance, tribute artists, and other entertaining features. I nearly said “Duh!” aloud when I saw the guy in the parade whom I had seen earlier at breakfast. It was Clint Howard.
As soon as the parade was over, we hightailed it to the Andy Griffith Museum to stand in a long line to see Clint and another special guest, Barbara Eden. Just to be clear, the wonderful Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou), Maggie Peterson Mancuso (Charlene Darling), and Rodney Dillard (the guitar-playing Darling boy) were all there as well, but I had previously met all of them and gotten their autographs,
The celebrities in attendance generally charge $10 or so for an autographed 8 X 10 and are always happy to pose for a photo. So when people learned Barbara Eden was charging $40 or thereabouts, many were not thrilled. (I don’t recall exactly what she charged, but I do remember there were different prices depending on what she was signing. I think the fee also increased if you also wanted to take a photograph with her.) I certainly understand people’s negative reactions, though I personally felt no one was being forced to get an autograph. I do think the organizers made a mistake in not publicizing her variation from the normal fees at Mayberry Days, but that was not Barbara’s fault. I may come at it from a different position, as I know what many celebrities charge for an autograph and photo at comic conventions (comicons). Some charge in excess of $100, so I felt if people were willing to pay her $40, good for her. But I don’t think all of my fellow Mayberry fans shared my opinion.
As would be the same for many men my age, certainly a prominent thought was: I’m going to meet the star of I Dream of Jeannie! Barbara was at Mayberry Days because she did appear in a single, classic episode of The Andy Griffith Show, as the incredibly attractive temporary manicurist at Floyd’s Barber Shop. I had read her autobiography which mentioned that her current marriage had been held at a church in San Francisco modeled after Notre Dame in Paris. I had previously visited the church when my youngest daughter worked at the stunning Fairmont Hotel right across the street. And as luck would have it, Barbara’s wedding reception was held at the Fairmont, so I had a point of conversation at the ready.
Barbara was gracious, as all the celebrities I have ever met at Mayberry Days have been. She became quite interested when I shared that my daughter worked at the Fairmont. Barbara related how much she loved the hotel. The people with Barbara handling her merchandise were surprised, asking me, “She works at the Fairmont in San Francisco?” Presumably, they didn’t expect anyone at Mayberry Days to actually know about the Fairmont.
There were only two problems I had with getting Barbara’s autograph. First, the picture I have posted was the best of three. In the other two, my excited expression even more clearly says, “Can you believe I am standing by Jeannie? I am standing beside Jeanie with my hand on her back!” that the pictures are more humorous than anything I want to share.
And the second issue? After all those years as a young man of watching her frolic around in her Jeannie costume, it was disturbing to fully realize…Barbara Eden is two years older than my mom.